368 THE ADVOCATE
VOL. 77 PART 3 MAY 2019
We have a very different kinship system than that used by Canada and
Canadians. We believe all humans are related and have no pronoun in our
language that does not mean kin. So you may not be Musqueam, but if you
live in our territory, then you live in a Musqueam community, and you are
our kin, and we have kinship obligations to you.
We also believe that we have been reincarnated many times and that we
will be reincarnated many times again. We also believe that we can have
more than one soul. We can carry a soul that lives and dies with our corporeal
body, and we can also carry other souls that may be spirits of nature or
These spiritual connections come with a price. If you carry a spirit of
nature, then you have obligations to nature. If you carry an ancestral incarnation,
then you have ancestral obligations.
When I was six years old, I was given the ancestral name kwes’ kwestin.
I carry obligations with this name. The first obligation I carry is a common
obligation for those with hereditary names: to remember the oral histories
of my lineage. The second obligation I carry is specific to me: I am to be a
bridge between the industrial world and Musqueam’s world.
When I was 14 years old, I began learning the oral histories of my lineage.
I was taught that for many, many generations our ancestors lived in what
my Elders called in English “The Myth Days”. This was the time when we
spoke the language of the animal world.
A late occurrence in the Myth Days was the Winter Without End. This
was the time when it grew cold year after year. Even the ocean froze. Things
were so bad that this is the time when we had to learn to smoke fish.
You would know the Winter Without End as the Wisconsin Glaciation.
Scientists say that this began 80,000 years ago and ended about 9,000 years
ago.4 Our Elders taught us that when the ice left, our ancestors felt it was
time to return home, so we came back here from the south.
Not long after we returned home, our first great teacher came to us from
the east. His name was xe:ls. He travelled with his family and servants. He
rewarded those who did good deeds and punished those who did harm to
xe:ls was our first great teacher. The Elders say that before he came we
were not quite right; we had no empathy, no compassion, no charity, we
couldn’t forgive. Some say that he was a god and that he made us out of what
we were before he came; others say that he was a man, yet a great shaman.
xe:ls came to us when Tsawwassen was an island. Geologists say that it
was an island 9,000 years ago. He came to us from the east, and to this day
we remember where he walked and where he worked his miracles. It is xe:ls
law that we follow to this day.